I wrote last month about the passing of Tyrone Garner, a black gay man who was one of the plaintiffs in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case which overturned state laws criminalizing same-sex activity; the case that led one Supreme Court justice to conclude such laws laws “demean the lives of homosexual persons,” including the unspoken but no less radical idea that gay people shouldn’t be demeaned for being gay. It was a decision that afforded gay & lesbian Americans a modicum of dignity we were legally denied before, and one that deeply affected me after growing up in gay in the wake of the Bowers v. Hardwick decision.
Now it’s time to give Tyrone Garner the same dignity he helped us achieve. Garner passed away on September 11, 2006 but, he has yet to be buried.
As of this week, sources report that his family still does not have the money to bury Garner. Unless the money is raised immediately, they will have no choice but to relinquish Garner’s body to Harris County, Texas, to be disposed of as a pauper. Ironically, it was a police officer in Harris County who barged into a private apartment and arrested Garner for having consensual sex with a male partner. And it was the state of Texas that spent an enormous amount of time and money in pursuing the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Thus, the state that sought to control his body while he was living may end up controlling it in his death.
Lambda Legal Defense Fund had previously announced a fund to be set up for Garner’s family to cover the cost of the funeral and burial, but apparently the funds have still not been raised. I don’t know the circumstances behind the fund, but Lambda is the second largest LGBT organization in the country and boasts an annual budget of $10.5 million.
This is now an urgent matter that requires immediate attention. I was unable to reach anyone from Lambda last night, but I did contact officials at the National Black Justice Coalition (of which I am a board member) to let them know about the situation and to see if NBJC could help to raise the money for Garner’s burial.
… The decision to turn over the body may happen any day now, so time is of the essence. I intend to follow up on this story during the day, and I hope that money will be raised immediately to bury Tyron Garner.
We as a community simply cannot allow Tyrone Garner to receive a pauper’s burial. The details for the burial fund Lambda announced are here, but there aren’t any details on what funds if any have been raised, or whether another fund will be set up to collect donations immediately. When I have any further details I will post an update here and anywhere else that might spread the news, and invite people to join me in contributing to a dignified burial a for Tyrone Garner.
It’s time to return dignity for dignity. We can and should do no less.
Update: Via Keith, here’s the burial fund information thus far.
The Tyrone Garner Funeral Fund
11757 Katy Freeway
Houston, TX 77079
Tyrone Garner Funeral Fund web site
Williams, Birnberg & Andersen
Houston, TX 77057-3746
Mitchell Katine web site